Search Results for: cunningham
After a recent post here about the Briggs Cunningham’s DOHC Frontenac Ford “T” sprint car, information has come to light about many of the details surrounding the car. Racing historian Michael Ferner has identified the driver as “Ed” Coffey and the builder of the car as well. Michael tells us:
“The Cunningham-Fronty was built by R.T. Jackson of Dayton, Ohio. See the article in “Speedway Magazine,” March 1933, covering the car. It was driven by Ed Coffey of Connecticut while owned by Cunningham, and perhaps others. Cunningham sold the car to Gil Pirrung of Missouri the following year, who had Doc MacKenzie, Billy Devore and Babe Stapp drive the car. In 1936 he sold it to Joel Thorne.”
Reader Carl Schultz took the identification of John “Ed” Coffey as the driver a bit further and contacted his son, Edward Coffey, who has written a book titled A Glimpse of Old Monroe (Connecticut). In it, Coffey included the newspaper article with two photos from October 16, 1933 about the inaugural event at the track you see at the top of this post. The bottom photo was clearly shot in the same setting as in our earlier post on the car.
As often happens in this field, the answer to one question often brings information to light that might be helpful in another’s research. Publisher and racing historian Joseph Freeman, who is working on a book about the racing Duesenberg’s, has asked if anyone can provide further information about Fred Meyer’s No. 44 Duesenberg from Bridgeport, Connecticut. The Monroe Speedway appears to have been a short-lived operation, as it is not mentioned in any of the books covering old racetracks that we have come across. Can any of our readers tell us more about the track and how long it remained in operation?
*Update* Thanks to reader Kevin Daily who has sent us the photo above and the information below about the track:
“My information came directly from my extensive correspondence with Lois Hurd-Hayden. Lois is Ben’s daughter and was the little girl who sat on her daddy’s lap bulldozing all those old Yankee stonewalls into the trenches. She has little memory of the active days of the track, other than perhaps selling hot dogs to those in attendance, but she certainly still remembers transforming the track it into the airport in the late 30′s.
Just below is an aerial image of Monroe Speedway taken in April of 1934. You can see what appears to be the flag man’s podium on the eastern straightaway at the mid-track infield. I sent this image to Lois about five years back and she was floored. She’d never seen the image before, nor had our Historical Society or Historian. It caused quite a stir within the Hurd Family and she still stays in touch from time to time from her home in Florida. The speedway/track is a cemetery today but you can still see the northern curve of the track in the grass if you know where to look, and the eastern straightaway is a quiet walking/bike path in the woods.
Remnants of the smaller Huntington Speedway just a mile to the Southeast are also still visible if you know where to look.
Briggs Swift Cunningham II spent his summers on the water and had learned to sail by the time he was six years old. At the age of 17, he began a run of thirty seasons of sailboat racing on Long Island Sound. He attended Yale for two years and left in 1929 to marry Lucy Bedford. At this time, he made sports his way of life.
Early on he became interested in auto racing and either bought this DOHC Frontenac powered Ford “T” sprint car or had someone build it for him. We do not know any of the other details about the car, but we seem to remember hearing that he may have had someone else drive this car for him in racing events at the time. We would be interested in knowing who built this car, in what time period was it raced and the driver of the car when it was campaigned. It appears that this may have been his first racing car that lead him onto a long and successful career in motorsports.
You can view an interesting original Frontenac Ford catalog here on The Old Motor. You can also learn much more about the D.O. Fronty cylinder head along with other Fronty heads and crankshafts via the N.W.V.S. The Cunningham photos are courtesy of Jerry Lettieri. Learn more about the recent gathering of post war Cunningham cars at the Historic Festival at Lime Rock Park at The Revs Institute.
Cunningham history has concentrated on the success of Cunningham Racing and the cars built by Cunningham to compete at Le Mans and race tracks throughout the eastern U.S. Briggs Cunningham also created a highly talented organization in West Palm Beach, Florida, where the Cunningham sports cars were designed and built.
Cunningham’s first Cadillac Le Mans entries in 1950 were built by the team of Bill Frick and Phil Walters in their Baldwin Long Island shop, Frick-Tappet Motors. (‘Ted Tappet’ was the pseudonym Walters raced under in the northeast.) Frick and Walters engineered and built a very-professionally turned out special in 1949 called the “Fordillac”, fitting Cadillac’s new ohv V-8 into Ford’s equally-new light weight 1949 coupe.
Cunningham purchased Frick-Tappet Motors and moved the organization to West Palm Beach, Florida by the end of 1950 to form the basis for the B. S. Cunningham Co. Walters became ‘sales manager and chief test driver’ (for lack of a better title, according to Briggs Cunningham himself). In fact, Walters was largely responsible for the modifications to Chrysler’s 331 cu. in. Hemi for its successful use in Cunningham sports cars. All engine development was done at B. S. Cunningham Company, including casting and finishing the specially-designed Cunningham log manifolds.
A number of Frick-Tappet associates also moved to Florida. George Dessler came from Baldwin to become General Manager at B. S. Cunningham Company. Dessler had run a machine tool business on Long Island and wrote the Curtiss-Wright instruction manual during the war. Eddie Bourgenon also came from Baldwin and worked on engines at Cunningham.
Briggs Weaver was the former chief engineer for Indian motorcycles, and designed the American du Pont speedster that raced at Le Mans in 1929. He could have been enjoying a relaxed retirement in Florida, but preferred the work at Cunningham where he was chief engineer and developed the Cunningham chassis.
Bob Blake was Cunningham’s master panel maker. Some of the larger panels were formed on specially built presses, while others were shaped by hand on the English wheel. Experienced pattern makers built molds for many of the custom parts designed and produced by Cunningham, all in-house.
These were only some of the better-known members of the team B. S. Cunningham assembled to win Le Mans with an American team. And, of course, there was the incomparable Alfred Momo, who ran the Cunningham competition program while he remained in his own shop in Woodside, Long Island.
Photo below: Team Cunningham members pose with their handiwork just before the cars are whisked off to the Mauritania in New York for the trip to Le Mans, 1951. Photos courtesy of Leigh Dorrington. Link to part IV of the Cunningham History.